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Liberty News

Cybersecurity youth camp prepares students early for careers in fast-growing field

June 29, 2019 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

Training the next generation of cybersecurity experts was the goal of Liberty University’s fifth annual cybersecurity day camp, held last week for the first time in the new School of Business building.

This was also the first year the camp, open to rising ninth- to 12th-graders, was sponsored by the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot—the National Youth Cyber Education Program. It was one of 228 CyberPatriot camps scheduled nationwide this summer.

“This is leading edge,” said Dr. Allen Harper, executive director of Liberty’s Center for Cyber Excellence (CCE). “They would normally only get this in college. They loved it, and we enjoyed seeing them get an early start in their career because what we show them can actually help them get a job someday.”

The camp concluded Friday with a three-hour competition in which campers put their skills to the test on three-member teams.

“We’re basically building teams and showing them how to work on teams, and they did a great job,” said David Donahoo, camp director and associate professor of information systems at Liberty. “We take students who have little to no computer knowledge and we just start immersing them in virtual machines, using Cisco networking, and help them understand the Internet, understand how everything works, and then tell them how to protect those systems. It’s challenging. There’s no way they can do it individually. They come together, develop a great work ethic, and then they’re flying.”

There are currently 300,000 jobs available in cybersecurity, making a degree in Liberty’s thriving programs one of the most marketable.

“We’re doing quite well with graduates getting employed in some advanced and highly technical businesses,” said Richard Bansley, who served as the camp’s lead instructor and is an associate professor in the computer science department and director of CCE’s cyberlabs.

All of the camp’s instructors are faculty and staff, complemented by a few members of Liberty’s Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) student team who served as mentors.

Bansley said Liberty’s 10-member MACCDC team features students who have met and exceeded rigorous standards.

“They have to exhibit skills, talents, passion, and integrity,” he said. “Ethics are extremely important, if not most important.”

The CCE helps to coordinate Liberty students’ educational paths to best prepare them for careers in various cyber fields, including information systems, information technology, and computer science.

“Cybersecurity crosses all three domains,” Bansley said. “We build in the computer science and information systems and information technology knowledge and experience before we start to weave in the cybertechnology tradecraft … to show them how to design a secure, robust, resilient network. Then, as they go through the various courses of their degree and their chosen cyber program, they learn how to do that at an increasingly advanced level up their capstone (project).”


Liberty has been recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Learn more about Liberty’s undergraduate and graduate degrees in cybersecurity at Liberty.edu/Cyber.

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